“Beneath Everest”: Stale Sandwich Theory
Posted by n3wday on April 26, 2010
from the FIRE Collective
We Need No Condescending Saviors: A Review of “Beneath Everest”
by Eric Ribellarsi
Beneath Everest is a new documentary film depicting the revolution in Nepal. While containing some interesting footage and criticisms of the Nepalese monarchy, this film is an obnoxious, arrogant attack from a western liberal perspective on the oppressed of Nepal and their revolution.
The film’s central thesis is the “Sandwich Theory,” or the claim the people are caught between two oppressors. Yet the film’s own footage frequently disproves this claim. Beneath Everest primarily condemns the Maoists for violence, even while admitting most of the violence came via the monarchy. The opening and closing scene of the movie (as well as the film’s trailer) feature a young boy, probably about five years old, saying “why did you kill my father and my brother?” No context is given to this central character until halfway into the movie when we learn the boy’s family were members of the Village Defense Committees, Nepal’s monarchist paramilitary organizations, which were responsible for burning villages and raping women in witch-hunts for Maoists, though this connection is never explored by Beneath Everest. We are just asked again “why did you kill my father and my brother?”
Shortly after this opening scene, we see an interview with Kapil Shrestha (identified only as “professor of political science,” yet having more interview time than any person actually involved in the revolution). Shrestha tells the viewer, “Until very recently, Nepal was known as a very peaceful, beautiful country populated by smiling faces. But this is no longer so.” This excerpt is followed by the film’s “exploration” of Maoist violence.
Is this really so? Was a country that had 42% of its population living below the poverty level and unable to even eat at the start of the people’s war simply “populated by smiling faces?” Was it more “peaceful” when many women were held as private property? Nepal has been gripped in violence long before the start of the people’s war; a systemic violence that starved millions of Nepal’s people to death and forced its women to travel to India to work as prostitutes.
From one scene to another, viewers are subjected to the same tired themes. Beneath Everest repeatedly uses three one-minute sound clips according to which narrative is deploying at any moment in the film. In addition, music intended to invoke menace is played nearly every time a Maoist speaks, regardless of the content that is spoken.
Many Maoists are interviewed in Beneath Everest, but the questions are always the same. “How do you justify your use of violence?” And the oppressed of Nepal answer, “because it is this system that is violent, this army that has raped and murdered us, and we are fighting against it now and do not regret that.” They are told by children who love the revolution, Dalits who have taken a place in it, women who have become leaders in it, elderly who see a future in it, yet their stories fall on deaf ears. Instead, we are treated to more of the film’s insulting soundtrack every time a Maoist speaks.
This revolution truly has the overwhelming support of Nepal’s oppressed, and despite the reactionary narrative of this film, its own footage has shown that. The words of the Internationale still ring true, “we need no condescending saviors.”